Needing a good performer to play a larger role, but they resist

I received the following question: “I have an employee who is great at what they do. Reliable and hard working. My challenge is I need them accountable for a bigger picture and it tends to be in an area that the person really doesn’t have an interest in. How would you work with that?”

It is great that you have someone on your team that is reliable and hard working. That in itself is a blessing. However, in today’s business environment, everyone’s role is needing to expand and that means we sometimes have to do things we don’t like doing. However, since this person has a history of being a hard worker, than there is probably another issue at play besides adding to someone’s plate.

Because you describe the larger role as not “their interest,” then it is important to first explore what about the new role is distasteful. For instance, is it because they lack skill to do the new role? Is it because the new role involves an aspect of their make-up that isn’t a match? For instance, if the new role involves a lot of detail and that is not their strength then that could be a problem. Or, if the new role involves a lot of project management and they are more of a people person then that could be a problem…or of course, the opposite could be true as well. Maybe they don’t know how to prioritize the new role and their existing or old role.

Once you have a clear understanding of their challenge you can work on creative ways to develop solutions. For instance, if they are lacking an inherent capability like not detailed enough, or requiring analytical skills they don’t currently have, then maybe you can couple them with someone else who has those natural capabilities. If they need development because it is a new skill set, then you can give them time to get trained and maybe supply them with a coach until they are more comfortable. Sometimes, people resist new tasks because they don’t like the discomfort of the learning process, but once learned they are fine to perform that new role or task. This would fit for people who don’t like the process of change, but once through it, they are completely supportive and even excited about the change that was made.

Ultimately, regardless of how you seek to understand the person and devise creative solutions to address their lack of interest in the new role, it is important to provide the “context” for that added role you are giving them. This involves describing the external drivers related to competition, economy, customer demands, technology changes and the internal drivers of growth, restructuring, new processes and improving efficiencies as the reason for the change that is “bigger” than either of our roles. Linking how you see this valuable person fitting into the organization as it changes based on external and internal drivers allows the person to get glimpse of their importance and helps them prepare for change.

Let us know what happens as you find out more about what is behind their lack of interest and any creative ideas you came up with since I would guess there are a lot of other readers having similar challenges.

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